Admiral William H. McRaven served as Navy SEAL for 37 years. As a Four-Start Admiral, his last assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces.
He attended the University of Texas, Austin. This book is based on his commencement speech at his alma mater. He served as the Chancellor for the University of Texas system between 2015 and 2018.
Chapter 1: Start Your Day With a Task Completed
If you want to change the world… start off by making your bed.
Author William H.McRaven emphasizes the reason for starting off the day by making
his bed. Its a simple task, but it shows his discipline, attention to detail and something to be proud of.
Chapter 2: You Can’t Go It Alone
If you want to change the world… find someone to help you paddle.
During his SEAL training days, Mac and the team need to do hours of paddling. There are days where one of the team members falls sick and the rest needs to put an extra effort to compensate. It shows the importance of teamwork.
Never forget that your success depends on others.
Chapter 3: Only the Size of Your Heart Matters
If you want to change the world… measure a person by the size of their heart.
One day in SEAL training, the students are ready for a swimming session. The waves are very high and the instructor asked a student who is 5’6” that does he wants to quit. He responded that he won’t quit. At the end of the session, he finished top of the class. SEAL training is all about proving something. Proving that size didn’t matter. Proving that determination and grit were always important than talent.
Before joining the SEAL training, he got a chance to visit the SEAL training place in San Diego. He saw a person who doesn’t have the appearance of a SEAL. Mac was wondering how he can finish SEAL training. Later he learned that he is Tommy Norris who is Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam. Also, the member of the FBI’s first Hostage Rescue Team.
Chapter 4: Life’s Not Fair, Drive On!
If you want to change the world… get over being a sugar cookie.
In SEAL training, one thing which tests the patience of students is being a sugar cookie. To become a sugar cookie, all you need to do is wet yourself and roll on the ocean sand. Make sure you are covered completely with sand. One day, an instructor ordered Mac to become a sugar cookie. Later, Instructor Martin asked Mac why he became a sugar cookie? Mac said he don’t know. Martin responded that life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that better off you will be.
There is no reason why someone was asked to become a sugar cookie. It’s to teach them that life is not fair all the time.
Chapter 5: Failure can make you stronger
If you want to change the world… don’t be afraid of the circus.
Mac and Marc are swim buddies. They came last in the swimming exercise and the officers put them in Circus (an extra training for people who comes last). The circus is more tiring and eventually who gets in the list drop off from the SEAL training. However, Mac & Marc were determined and it helped improve their swimming skills. On the final swimming training, they came first.
I sometimes fell short of being the best, but I never fell short of giving it my best.
Chapter 6: You must dare greatly
If you want to change the world… slide down the obstacle head first.
Mac talks about how taking risks is very essential to achieve greater heights.
He gives a couple of examples. During his SEAL training days, in one of the exercises, he used different tactics to finish, which never helped. His instructor advised to do the head first (which is riskier than his other tactics) and it paid off.
Another one in Iraq, during a rescue of hostages, they pulled off one of the most challenging rescues in his lifetime.
Chapter 7: Stand up to the bullies
If you want to change the world… don’t back down from the sharks.
Mac talks about how courage is super important to fight the bullies in this chapter.
In his SEAL training, he has to do night swimming on the ocean which is filled with sharks. (esp white sharks). Their team is courageous to fight even if the sharks come in their way.
In Iraq, they captured the then-president Saddam Hussein, who literally bullied the entire nation. You need to have the courage to stand up against these sharks.
Chapter 8: Rise to the Occasion
If you want to change the world… be your very best in the darkest moments.
One of the most difficult exercises in SEAL training is diving. On a dark, cold, foggy night frogmen needs to do underwater diving/swimming. It’s so dark that they can’t see even their hands on the water.
Many people have lost their lives in the war, and training. Family, friends, and people around them always arose to the occasion.
Chapter 9: Give People Hope
If you want to change the world… start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
The team was undergoing the hell week. It’s swimming, running, calisthenics, and various activities on the mudslide. Statistically, the majority of the students left during this week. The instructor offered a chance to quit and one student almost accepted, before someone started signing an inspirational song. Then, the entire class followed and the student who wanted to quit changed his mind and continued the crew.
Lieutenant General John Kelly spoke to the families who lost their son or daughter in the war. He was able to give hope to the families who are suffering.
Hope is the most powerful force in the universe
Chapter 10: Never, Ever Quit!
If you want to change the world… don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
During the beginning of the SEAL training, there were 150 students.
The instructor told them that they will undergo the toughest time of their lives. If they want to quit, all they have to do is ring the bell thrice. He also added, >If you quit, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Quitting never makes anything easier.
In the end, only 33 graduated.
In Afghanistan, Bates, one of the young army rangers was paralyzed and admitted in the hospital. Mac was speechless seeing him in his condition. Bates responded in sign language that I’ll be Ok. After a year, he is back with prosthetic legs and standing tall.